One of two scenarios could play out in the year ahead. The Kremlin could withdraw from eastern Ukraine and try to repair its relations with the West. Or it could try instead to regain the initiative, increasing the pressure on European leaders and try to split the continent asunder.
What is evident is that Russia's room for manoeuvre in its own neighborhood is pretty restrained. A large-scale military operation in eastern Ukraine would mean heavy casualties and more sanctions. It would also bury the embryonic Eurasian Economic Union, because Moscow's allies in Belarus and Kazakhstan have made clear that they strongly oppose the redrawing of sovereign borders.
Logic dictates that if Russia wants to increase the pressure on Europe, it should try beyond the territory of the former Soviet Union. It is such a scenario that makes the Balkans a likely hotspot. Russia certainly does not fantasize about bringing Bosnia or Albania into its sphere of influence, and nobody in the Balkans dreams of joining the Eurasian Union. Their major trading partner is the EU - and it is there that businesses look for investment, and would-be émigrés look for new homes.
A controlled crisis in the Balkans would give Russia bargaining chips, and deniability. It would force many European governments to turn their eyes away from Ukraine. And it will make it almost impossible for the EU to maintain even a semblance of unity on security. It would open a chasm between the European south and European north.
Bosnia's survival as a unified state cannot be taken for granted. If Russia openly backed the secessionist aspirations of the Republika Srpska, it could be the point of no return. Moscow's decision to abstain in a UN vote authorizing a prolonged EU mission to the country leads many to believe that the Kremlin is seriously considering such a move.